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5 Houston Olympians Who Raised the Bar on a Global Stage

Published Jul 23, 2021 by David Ruiz

Carl Lewis Olympic Athlete

The Tokyo Olympics, postponed last year due to COVID-19, kicks off July 23 and features over 11,000 athletes from around the world. More than 500 athletes will represent Team USA from across the country, including notable Houston athletes such as Simon Biles, Lawson Craddock and Kelley Hurley. 

As the world looks to Tokyo for this summer’s major sporting event, we’re taking a look back at some of the world-renowned Houstonians who competed in the Games. Here are five remarkable Olympic athletes from Houston who elevated the nation's fourth largest city to this international stage.

Photo courtesy of Zina Garrison's official webpage (zinagarrison.org)

Zina Garrison

The professional tennis player, who reached a career high No. 4 world ranking in 1989, represented the U.S. at the 1988 Seoul and 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. In 1988, Garrison brought home a gold medal in doubles and a bronze in singles. Garrison was also a runner-up at Wimbledon 1990, where she was the first African-American woman since Althea Gibson to reach the Grand Slam final, and a three-time Grand Slam mixed doubles champ. 

Garrison grew up playing tennis at Macgregor Park in Houston’s Third Ward, which now honors her legacy with the Zina Garrison Tennis Academy. She also founded the Zina Garrison Foundation for the Homeless and the Zina Garrison All-Court Tennis Program.

Photo courtesy of George Foreman's official webpage (georgeforeman.com)

George Foreman

Raised in Houston’s Fifth Ward, 19-year-old Foreman won the heavyweight gold medal in boxing at the Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games as an amateur. Foreman boxed at a professional level from 1969 until 1997. His career finished with a record of 76-5, including 68 wins by knockout.

In 1983, Foreman founded the George Foreman Youth and Community Center in North Houston, dedicated for kids to be active and involved in educational activities.

Photo courtesy of Carl Lewis' official webpage (carllewis.com)

Carl Lewis

The University of Houston alum won nine Olympic gold medals, a silver and 10 World Championship medals in track and field. Voted as the “World Athlete of the Century” by the International Association of Athletics Federation and as “Olympian of the Century” by Sports Illustrated, Lewis’ successful career led him to become one of the greatest athletes to ever emerge from the University of Houston.

Lewis continues to hold UH’s records for indoor 55-meter dash (6.07s) and indoor-and-outdoor long jumps (28’-1”, 28’-3.5”). The former Olympian now full-time assistant coach with UH’s track and field team

Photo courtesy of University of Texas' Track & Field and Cross Country Twitter page (@TexasTFXC)

Carlette Guidry-White

Born in Houston, Guidry-White won gold medals in the 4x100 meter relay at the 1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Her speed, physique and dedication also won her a gold medal in the 1995 Gothenburg World Championships. 

Guidry-White, aka ‘Ms. Turbo’, currently holds the American record for 4th best indoor 60-meter (7.04 sec) and 200-meter (22.73 sec), and 8th best outdoor 200-meter (22.14 sec). After a successful career as a sprinter, she pursued a career in social work, returning to the professional path she once paused to excel as an athlete. 

Photo courtesy of Simone Biles' official Facebook page

Simone Biles

Biles, with a total of 30 Olympic and World Championship medals, is heading into the Tokyo Olympics with a winning record. Recently described as “the greatest gymnast of all time” by Time Magazine, Biles continues to elevate the standard for the world of gymnastics. At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, she became the first female U.S. gymnast to win four gold medals at single games.

Biles is also the first gymnast to win three consecutive world all-round titles. With Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt retired, Biles is the biggest singular athlete to follow at this year’s Games. 

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